Category Archives: Fire

Major milestone: iNaturalist Australia hits 1 million

iNaturalist Australia is excited to say they hit 1 million observations in mid-April only six months after its launch. A grand effort thanks to all the keen Australian citizen scientists for uploading observations and the expert identifiers for verifying sightings.

iNaturalist Australia is proving to be a popular platform for insect and plant observations. From the recent City Nature Challenge results we can see that 28% of observations were insects and 42% plants.

The global iNaturalist network is one of the most successful citizen science platforms in the world, with instances in 10 different countries. The iNaturalist Australia community is very active with over 18,000 observers and over 8,000 identifiers

New look for iNaturalist Australia

The global iNaturalist brand has recently had a refresh and iNaturalist Australia has joined in too. The iNaturalist Australia logo now looks like this – so keep an eye out for bright green bird!

iNaturalist and the ALA

Collaborating with iNaturalist is a wonderful opportunity for the Atlas of Living Australia and our users. It provides an easy-to-use desktop and mobile platform, support for species identification, and tools for assessing data quality. All iNaturalist Australia data is regularly fed into the ALA.

Human observation data – individual sightings of species – are a valuable part of the ALA. This data helps to create a more detailed picture of our national biodiversity, and assists scientists and decision makers to deliver better outcomes for the environment and our species. iNaturalist Australia’s species identification features and data quality measures ensure individual sightings are more valuable than ever.

Citizen Science and Bushfire Recovery – CSIRO and ALA

Bushfire affected land and plant species in the town of Bilpin, NSW are beginning to regenerate.
Bushfire affected land and plant species in the town of Bilpin, NSW are beginning to regenerate. Credit: Australian Museum

CSIRO in collaboration with the Australian Citizen Science Association, has launched the Citizen Science Bushfire Project Finder to support Australia’s bushfire recovery.

Read more….

People-powered science will play a role in Australia’s bushfire recovery, with more than 20 projects underway involving citizen scientists of all ages.

Projects on the website include:

  • Australian Museum project Wildlife Spotter enables users to identify animals in photos taken by camera traps around Australia, assisting researchers in monitoring the effects of bushfires on Australian fauna.
  • South Australia’s Department for Environment and Water are using camera traps to monitor the flora and fauna recovery on Kangaroo Island.
  • There are several projects which people can contribute their sightings of plants and wildlife returning to fire affected areas.
  • Some projects also collect information about the intensity of fire impacts, observed fire behaviour, effects on water quality running off of fire grounds, and impacts of the smoke on people’s health.

The Project Finder also features a geographic filter enabling users to identify available projects in their area. It can be accessed at www.csiro.au/bushfireprojects.

Produced by the Australian Museum and the Atlas of Living Australia, DigiVol enables the public to spot animals in wilderness photos taken by automated cameras around Australia.
Produced by the Australian Museum and the Atlas of Living Australia, DigiVol enables the public to spot animals in wilderness photos taken by automated cameras around Australia. Credit: Australian Museum

Post Fire Weeds

Article by Sandy Benson

Swamp recovery post fire Photos: Sandy Benson

Many weed species in the Blue Mountains are ‘fire-responsive’. Post-fire conditions make it easy for weeds to establish due to favourable conditions, they germinate prolifically and can spread vigorously within the first few seasons.

Weed species gradually establish long-term soil seed banks that are triggered to germinate en masse by fire. In the absence of targeted weed control, weed species rapidly spread and can form a dense ‘carpet’, outcompeting native species.

However, this can be to your advantage. It’s a great time to treat weed infestations as they are more accessible than ever before. Usually they are the first to emerge, easy to spot but also easy to access. If you control emergent weeds before they set seed, you’ll be able to get on top of these weedy patches much more quickly. Timely post-fire management action (usually within 18 months) is necessary for control.

Opportunities

Improved access post-fire provides an excellent opportunity to control weeds that are not usually easily accessible. This certainly applies to dense riparian vegetation and our
Blue Mountains Swamp communities, where the dense vegetation impedes access to established weeds, or wherever the foliage of established weeds is beyond the reach of
physical or chemical methods. Unless burnt, weeds in these locations usually escape control efforts. Post-fire, the sparse vegetation allows the foliage of resprouting taller weed species to be easily located and within range of control.

Weed Species proliferation post fire

There are several ways weed species can proliferate after fire:

  • Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas
  • Kill or reduce the number of established mature plants but post-fire conditions are ideal for the seed bank to explode
  • Resprout from base of mature plants
  • Burn or char the weed species, then plant sends up numerous suckers

Each of these reproductive pathways requires a different weed management strategy

Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas

Weed seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years.The fruits of weeds are attractive to a wide range of animals that can spread seeds such as foxes, rabbits and bird species. Seeds can also be spread by dispersal from the parent plant or by wind or water. This may increase the number of weeds present at a site in the short term. But over time and with weed treatment it can deplete the weed soil seed bank, and be replaced by native species and a healthier natural state in the long term.

Likely pathways of weed seedlings germinating in areas previously clear of weed species are post-fire flooding, wind and bird distributed seeds from neighbouring unburnt areas. Post-fire these seedlings once mature, set seed and are likely
to spread dramatically.

An opportunity exists where, a weed seed bank explosion can lead to a weed seed bank depletion. Fire can result in one-off increases in weed densities, which after subsequent
fires rapidly decline if weed treatment is quick and consistent. If weed seedlings are not controlled, they will outcompete native seedlings, exhausting the native soil seedbank.

Consistent follow-up seedling control is necessary in areas of low fire intensity, near water sources, and where seeds have dispersed into the burnt area from unburnt sections of the population. This can happen particularly in the Blue Mountains
where seed from unburnt areas can carry down a slope and be deposited on burnt ground. The removal of these seedlings before they mature and set seed is a high priority.

Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:

• Gorse Ulex europaeus
• Cape Broom Genista monspessulana
• Scotch/English Broom Cytisus scoparius
• Perennial grass Ehrharta calycina
• African Lovegrass Eragrostis curvula
• Coolatai Grass Hyparrhenia hirta
• Patersons Curse Echium plantagineum
• Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. (franchetii, pannosus, lacteus, glaucophyllus, horizontalis)

Blackberry resprouting from the base of mature Blackberry post fire Photo: Sandy Benson

Kill mature plants/seed bank explosion

Depending on fire intensity and thickness of the weed species trunk or stem, fire can kill adult plants with little or no re sprouting post-fire. However, weed seeds are long lived, remain in the soil and can be triggered to germinate by fire. Many of the Blue Mountains most invasive and pervasive woody weeds fall into this group.

Trees and shrubs – some trees and shrubs are killed by fire and do not sucker or resprout post-fire, these plants rely solely on seed to regenerate. Many germinate straight after fires. The removal of seedlings and juveniles before they mature and set seed is a high priority.

Trees commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:

• Radiata Pine Pinus radiata
• Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus
• Holly Ilex aquifolium
• African Olive Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata

Woody Weeds – A hot fire will kill mature wood weeds but encourage mass germination of seeds, occurring in denser, more vigorous patches. Once these become established,
they quickly produce large amounts of seed. Mass germination can reduce the weed soil seed bank over time, but only through sufficient follow-up weed treatments
over many years, otherwise a denser infestation is likely to result.

Post-fire look for:

• Cape Broom Genista monspessulana
• Scotch/English Broom Cytisus scoparius
• Gorse Ulex europaeus
• Lantana Lantana spp.
• Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. (franchetii, pannosus, lacteus, glaucophyllus, horizontalis)

Climber, scrambler or creeper – Usually fire kills adult climbers, scramblers and creepers, but triggers germination in the soil weed seed bank. These seeds dependent on the species can return in denser infestations, particularly with climbers that produce many seeds in their fleshy fruits. These seeds are usually favoured by birds so may be found close to the parent plant or in a new location.

In the Blue Mountains look for:

• Balloon Vine Cardiospermum grandiflorum
• Banana passionfruit Passiflora mollissima

Resprout from base of mature plants

Some weeds resprout from the base of burnt mature plants from regenerative buds protected underground or beneath layers of bark. There is a short-term decrease and
reduction in biomass and/or densities as mature plants are temporarily ‘weakened’ post fire. There is an opportunity to achieve better results if prompt weed treatment is
undertaken on fire weakened weeds.

Trees and shrubs – Weed trees may resprout post-fire, but not for all species.
• African Olive Olea europaea ssp. Cuspidate
• Lantana Lantana spp.

Woody Weeds – Gorse evolved as a fire-climax plant, readily catching fire and burning to ground level but regenerating from the base after the fire. In the Blue Mountains look for:
• Gorse Ulex europaeus

Climber, scrambler or creeper – When burnt these species may receive a boost post-fire with vigorous resprouting and/or seedling regeneration into fertile, sunny sites.
Response is strongly dependent on fire severity.

Fire generally kills Blackberry’s seasonal canes but the root crown usually survives and regrowth can be quite vigorous after fire. Post-fire environments provide a unique opportunity for control as all foliage is accessible.

Climbing, scrambling and creeper weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:

• Blackberry Rubus fruticosus spp
• Balloon Vine Cardiospermum grandiflorum
• Cats Claw Creeper Dolichandra unguis-cati syn. Macfadyena unguis-cati
• Japanese Honeysuckle Lonicera japonica

Bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes – Weeds species with a bulb, corm, rhizome or tuber are unlikely to be burnt by fire as the corms or tubers are protected from the heat by being located underground. Many species resprout vigorously post-fire and can invade
bare ground.

The removal of corms or tubers is a high priority. Those with long strappy leaves can be treated by wiping (wiping herbicide along the strappy leaves with a herbicide wiper).

Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:

Montbretia Montbretia Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
• Watsonia Watsonia meriana var. bulbillifera
• Turkey Rhubarb Acetosa sagittata
• Morning-glory Ipomaea purpurea
• Madeira Vine Anredera cordifolia

Suckering

Weed species can sucker post-fire, meaning its principal means of propagation is suckering from the roots vegetatively. Trees under stress post-fire can send up numerous suckers as a defensive mechanism. This can lead to dense stands forming and a monoculture of the same species, excluding all native species from that site.

Weeds commonly displaying this fire response include suckering trees, suckering woody weeds and brambles.

Trees and shrubs – Mature Camphor Laurel trees have been documented suckering profusely after being burnt.

Weed management should be undertaken by killing the parent tree and suckering plants by treating each with herbicide. Weed trees commonly displaying this type
of fire response in the Blue Mountains are:

• Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima
• Weeping Willow Salix babylonica
• Small and large leaf Privet Ligustrum spp.
• Sycamore Platanus orientalis
• Camphor laurel Cinnamomum camphora
• Black Locust/Robinia Robinia pseudoacacia

Wood Weeds – There are a limited number of wood weeds that sucker or resprout post-fire in the Blue Mountains. These should be treated with herbicide as a high priority. Look for:

• Spanish Heath Erica lusitanica
• Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. (franchetii, pannosus, lacteus, glaucophyllus, horizontalis)

Tree species suckering post fire Photo: Sandy Benson

Are weeds good after fire?

Weeds can act as a buffer to reduce erosion and as a cover crop for native seedlings and animals post fire while natural native regeneration occurs.

Erosion risk increases after a fire due to the lack of groundcover to stabilise the soil which slows down the speed of runoff. Weeds are usually the first plants to emerge
after fire. If left for 3 to 6 months they can act as a ground layer, the plant roots stabilise the soil, and stems and leaves slow the water to give it time to percolate into the soil profile.

At the early stages any vegetation cover, including weeds can protect native seedlings. Weed seedlings grow quickly and can perform several jobs; protecting native seedlings
from erosion, drying out, returning nutrients to the soil and to provide food and shelter for insects and animals.

Weeds can be helpful up until a point, then they can be the bushlands worst enemy if left too long.

Assess burnt areas for weeds and the best control methods for the species. Control and target weeds before seed set, but limiting trampling as much as possible while bushland is still fragile.

When to treat weeds?

The months following a bushfire are among the best times to control weed species. However, it is very important to remember to leave burnt areas alone for the first 3-6 months to allow the soil to recover and native seedlings to establish, as over enthusiastic weed control can cause damage.

Post fire, soil forms a crust (soil sealing) that protects and reduces the loss of soil, organic matter and seedbank from rain events and erosion. The crust is formed through a combination of elements; when rain hits the soil, it dislocates the silt and clay making way for moss, lichen, algae or fungi, and cyanobacteria to enter which then
forms a surface crust.

The combined protective cover elements such as the soil crust and seedlings can protect the soil throughout the first-year post fire. Natural regeneration is the priority.
Monitoring the site for weed growth indicators such as fresh new growth and flowering should be used as the cue for treatment. Take care to prevent any off-target damage
to native plants.

Post fire soil forming crust forming Photo: Sandy Benson

Bushcare Kids Resource Page – Updating the Bushcare Website

Come venture to our new BUSHCARE KIDS resource page and find a range of activities that will enable you to discover, explore and enjoy nature around your backyard.

Our BUSHCARE KID page is found under the RESOURCES tab https://www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au/resources/bushcare-kids/

Here are some exciting activities

1. Birdlife Australia – Bird in Backyards, 26 Mar 2020. Keep your kids chirpy at home with these activities

2. Bushcare Ranger Programs – downloads some great activity sheets to explore around your backyard.

3. NSW Environment, Energy and Science Conservation from Your Couch

Here is a list of ways you can safely maintain your social distance and assist our most vulnerable native animals.

  1. Be an armchair detective
  2. Inspire a new generation of ecologists
  3. Plant a native tree
  4. Birdwatch from your balcony
  5. Listen to a new soundtrack

4. NSW Environment, Energy and Science 28 Threatened Species colouring-in pages and masks.

5. NSW Environmental Education Resources Visit the NSW Government Educational Resources webpage

Also check the Blue Mountains City Council – Connecting with Nature Our goal is to inspire the next generation – by connecting them to our special Blue Mountains environment and fostering their natural love of nature. In a learning experience unique to our City within a World Heritage Area, we offer local students the opportunity to explore their local water catchment, learn why it’s special and take action to protect it.

We hope you enjoy!!

Crosswords and Puzzles…

Hello Crossword Fans, and we know you’re out there!!  Our ‘wordsmith’ Bushcare Officer, Karen Hising, has produced some great crosswords featuring the Blue Mountains weeds, native plants, animals and birds (for a start) to entice the interest of both the young and young-at-heart. 

Besides the known benefits of solving crossword puzzles such as being good for mental health by keeping the mind active, building social bonds, helping fight disease, strengthening the mind and improving vocabulary…we get to learn more about the Blue Mountains natural (and weedy) environment around our Bushcare sites.

Our aim is to post a new crossword each week on the Bushcare Website with answers listed the following week on www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au.

If you have some great ideas for our themed crosswords…or wanting to test your own crossword (and possibly cryptic) skills then contact Karen Hising on khising@bmcc.nsw.gov.au 

New weekly crossword puzzles highlighting Blue Mountains weeds, native plants, native animals and native birds

Instructions

CLICK on the link below and follow the instructions to either fill in online or print a hard copy.

WEEK 1 – Weeds of the Blue Mountains Crossword Puzzle

You’ll find most answers in the new version of the Weeds Of Blue Mountains Bushland – A Guide To Identification and the Control booklet https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/Weeds_Booklet_2020.pdf  or the Blue Mountains Weeds Website – https://weedsbluemountains.org.au/

To FILL IN ONLINE

  1. CLICK on the clue listed under Across or Down – and this will highlight the corresponding boxes (purple) to fill in on the crossword.
  2. To TYPE in the answer CLICK on the purple highlighted box in the crossword and start typing your answer (a correct answer turns the boxes green). If your answer was incorrect then use the backspace to delete then try again for this answer only!!
  3. To RESET ANSWERS (all answers) scroll down the screen  below the crossword and CLICK Reset Answer (red button)

To PRINT a Hardcopy scroll down the screen below the crossword and CLICK Print My Puzzle (purple button)

Videos – coming soon

Want an alternative to the ‘other’ live streaming viewing currently on offer.

We aim to provide a platform on the Bushcare Website showing previous videos featuring bushcare sites, volunteers, Bioblitz, community days, fauna and much more.

However, the exciting news is the Bushcare Team (and others in Council’s environmental team) are also preparing to front the camera themselves to produce a host of videos highlighting a range of ‘interesting’ and ‘how to’ segments – such as showing different weeding techniques, treating a variety of common or tricky weeds and a range of videos showcasing flora, fauna, bees, seed collection, biofilters, composting, biosecurity, bush backyards and so much more.

These will be placed on the Bushcare Website when final cuts are ready (www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au).

Watch Now….

Find out all about the recent launch of “Turtle Island” in early March – a floating eco habitat designed to provide a safe nesting place for turtles, from leading turtle expert Dr Ricky Spencer (Western Sydney University).

https://www.facebook.com/bluemountainscitycouncil/videos/2734772646614369/?v=2734772646614369

Photographic Competition

Although we might be more confined than usual, we would love to see any photos of the natural world that you may have or can safely take. That might be birds, insects, animals, geology/rocks, plants, fungi, landscapes, people working in natural areas, or anything interesting about nature in general.

Another great idea is to take before and after photos – whether this is showing bushfire recovery, food from the garden to the plate or just projects around your home. Write a short description to go along with it.

Orchid found at Blackheath Photo: Keith Brister

We would like to create a gallery of photos from our volunteers to showcase each week on the Bushcare Blue Mountains website (www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au).

Some criteria to follow:

  • The photos need to be of high resolution
  • We need to be careful about publishing photos of people’s identity online for privacy reasons, so any people featured need to provide their written permission or their faces are not identifiable
  • The photos will be filed for possible future use in publications, on Council/Bushcare websites, newsletters, bulletins, flyers, etc (credited to the photographer)
  • The photos need to be sent via email to bushcare@bmcc.nsw.gov.au

We hope to see your photographic talents soon! For any queries, please contact Alison Steele on asteele@bmcc.nsw.gov.au.

Recovering Our Backyard: Mini-Expo February 29

An event organised by Blue Mountains Recovery Wellbeing Committee, Blue ARC, and Resilience & Preparedness Group.

Many residents of the Blue Mountains region are concerned about the impacts of the bushfires on our natural environment and National Park and people need to feel that they can be involved in recovery efforts in a meaningful way.

On Saturday 29 February, Blackheath – a mini-expo is being run in the afternoon to help guide residents on how they can assist the regeneration of our natural environment.

The afternoon will include talks from wildlife experts and a Council representative, there will be tables set up with representatives from local groups and organisations providing information, and opportunities to volunteer.

Date and Time: Saturday, February 29, 2020, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM

Location: Phillips Hall, Blackheath Community Centre – Gardiner Crescent, Blackheath, NSW

To register click on this link below

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/recovering-our-backyard-tickets-94508644901?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=esfb&utm-source=fb&utm-term=listing&fbclid=IwAR035-kBGPiWw2BNtWXjJOSEP3XuO34GbMOA96yYraI2pDeMaaGunY3buU8

Watching for weeds after bush fires

Taking care of your bushland after a fire

Bush fires create conditions that favour the establishment of weeds, which can prevent native plants and desirable garden plants from re-establishing and thriving.

After a bush fire, it’s important to manage weed growth in bushland on your property. Council can provide technical advice and support to help you manage weeds on your property, during the clean-up and rebuilding process. Contact our Community Conservation Officer, Linda Thomas on 4780 5612 or at lthomas@bmcc.nsw.gov.au for more information.

More information about weeds in your area is available online: weedsbluemountains.org.au

Why is controlling weeds important?

Weeds spread easily and have a negative impact on native plants and wildlife. It’s important to control them as soon as possible, to prevent them from spreading to neighbouring properties and native bushland.

While many native plant species and desirable garden plants survive bush fires, their ability to re-establish, thrive, and reseed is reduced by the presence of weeds that aggressively compete for water, light, and soil nutrients.

The cleared post-bush fire landscape is also an opportunity to control weeds while they are visible and before they start to spread.

It is very important to remember to leave burnt areas alone for the first 3-6 months to allow the soil  to recover and seedlings to establish. At the early stages any vegetation cover, including weeds , is protecting soil from erosion and protecting native seedlings. After that we need to assess areas for weed control and timing to target ecosystem transformers before seed set, but limiting trampling as much as possible while bushland is still fragile. Over enthusiastic weed control can also cause damage post fire.

Scotch broom invading recently burnt bushland
Weeds such as Scotch Broom will quickly spread into burnt areas if not controlled. Photo: Council

Native Plants

Native vegetation may take several years to recover after bush fire and will change in composition over time.

Australian native plants are adapted to recover after bush fire but it can take some time before your local bushland looks like the healthy vegetation community it was before the fire.

Within weeks of a fire some trees and grasses will start to resprout. Over the next few years most of the original shrubs and trees will regrow from existing rootstock or from seeds stored in the soil.

For at least the first few months post-fire it is best to just observe the recovery process and allow the bushland to regenerate itself.

In some situations, where natural regeneration is not progressing well, the planting of native vegetation or direct seeding may be required to stabilise soils and assist with the natural process of regeneration. If you are planting in recovering bushland, you should only use native plants grown locally, and use locally collected seeds to maintain the integrity of the bushland.

Find this Fact Sheet on Council’s website https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/documents/watching-for-weeds-and-taking-care-of-your-bushland-after-a-fire

Other Interesting Articles https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2020/01/to-help-the-bushfire-recovery-pull-out-weeds/